Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Girls by Lori Lansens

Book #29 in the 50 BOOK CHALLENGE: The Girls by Lori Lansens

Coincidentally, ThommaLyn blogged about slush pile/marketability tonight, a theme that runs parallel to my thoughts on The Girls.

First, this book was sent to me from England by my mother-in-law, who was given it by her sister Judy (Uncle Michael's wife - for those 'in the know'), who read it as a book club selection. Why is this important? Because ironically, the book is set in Southern Ontario, Canada, which is where I live. There's been much discussion in our Toronto Romance Writers about setting -- mainly that books set in Canada don't sell. Apparently, this one did.

Next point (and please excuse the rambling. Chalk it up to very little sleep) is the topic, and for this, I'm going directly from the back cover blurb:
In twenty-nine years, Rose Darlen has never spent a moment apart from her twin sister Ruby. She has never gone for a solitary walk or had a private conversation. Yet, in all that time, she has never once looked into Ruby's eyes. Joined at the head, 'The Girls' (as they are known in their small town) attempt to lead a normal life, but can't help being extraordinary. Now almost thirty, Rose and Ruby are on the verge of becoming the oldest living craniopagus twins in history, but they are remarkable for a lot more than their unusual sisterly bond.
Now seriously, readers, based on this 'tease', would you have picked this book up?
I'm going to be perfectly honest and say - Not if it was the last book in the bin. Why? *enter devil's advocate*
Because I can't imagine what life must be like for people in this situation and perhaps don't want to.
Because it's far easier to disassociate myself from the cruelties of nature, look upon my own perfect children and remain blissfully unaware.
Because I don't have time to feel sorry for them -- my God, I've got my own issues!
Because when I steal a few moments to lose myself in a book, I want to escape into a world of wonder, adventure, excitement...

And wouldn't you question the sanity of the publisher? Surely this book wouldn't 'chart', couldn't possibly find an audience broad enough, open-minded enough to sit through 300+ pages of what surely described the miserable life of conjoined twins!

Ah, how wrong we (I) was.
The Girls is an extraordinary novel. Beautifully written, depressing/disturbing - yes, in some parts, - but also uplifting, amusing and a wonderful experience. I'm so glad I was given this gift and hope you will seek it out the next time you're in a bookstore. I can see why it's popular amongst the book-clubs: it leaves room for discussion, ponderence, and character analysis.

Back to marketing for a moment: I feel a little sad for this author, Lori Lansens, because she'll never (deservedly) become as rich or famous as Nora Roberts or Stephen King, who both have my absolute and undying respect, but after reading a book like The Girls, those 'best selling' novels feel somehow devoid of any real meaning.

Now, off I go to work on my own emotionally meaningless wip! ;0 (Don't castigate... I jest!)
But first, I leave you with the opening paragraph:
I have never looked into my sister's eyes. I have never bathed alone. I have never stood in the grass at night and raised my arms to a beguiling moon. I've never used an airplane bathroom. Or worn a hat. Or been kissed like that. Or solo walk. I've never climbed a tree. Or faded into a crowd. So many things I've never done, but oh, how I've been loved. And, if such things were to be, I'd live a thousand lives as me, to be loved so exponentially.


Anonymous said...

Ai, that book sounds wonderful! Adding it posthaste to my To-Read list and my Amazon gift list.

And that opening paragraph is exquisite.

Rhian / Crowwoman said...

Most excellent point Wylie-darlin regarding marketing, blurbs and approach to entice. No - i wouldn't buy it after reading the blurb for this reason you gave: "Because when I steal a few moments to lose myself in a book, I want to escape into a world of wonder, adventure, excitement..." That doesn't mean i don't read books with substance. It means "Now almost thirty, Rose and Ruby are on the verge of becoming the oldest living craniopagus twins in history" does nothing to convince me it has substance nor provides adequate reason i should invest the wee bit of freetime i have in this particular story. I'm not a gawker, the blurb makes it sound like a gawk. Great commentary.

Christine said...

This book sounds very interesting. I may have to give it a try, but I have to admit, I've been shying away from serious books these days. I was fun, romp, sex, fantasy when I read. Why? Because of all the reasons you said above. Does this make me shallow? Maybe, but I need the break. :)

That said, I love books that send me on an emotional roller coaster and this sounds like it would do just that. Maybe I will check it out. You haven't been wrong yet in your recommendations, Wylie. :)

Wylie Kinson said...

TL - I agree. The opening paragraph is lovely, and it's what compelled me to keep reading.

Rhian and Christine - Some books I read as a writer, some as stricly a reader. This book appealed to me on BOTH levels. But admittedly, it's not for everyone. (my mother hated it topic-wise and we have very similar taste in books)

I, too, was worried about the 'gawker' effect! But I reminded myself that it's fiction, and in the end, the author did such a good job of describing the situation (she used very good judgement and only alluded to some of the more personal aspects of being conjoined rather than creep us out with details) that my gawkerness and sympathy turned to intellectual curiosity, empathy and admiration.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine in my Online Classics Club is reading this book too! Another one to add to my TBR list. Great review with some excellent points.

gabriella hewitt said...

You did a great job Wylie of accurately describing how I would feel if I'd come across this book. Reading the back cover blurb, I wouldn't have picked it up, basically for the reasons you gave. Like Christine, when I have time to read I want something that takes me out of my world but also gives me that HEA at the end.

My mom breaks up her fiction reading with True Crime stories. I don't know how she sleeps at night after reading some of those books.

But you've also given me a good reminder of how important it is to our creativity as writers to go beyond what we know or are comfortable with. Sometimes that's where the next great idea or plot will come from.

Thanks for introducing me to this story. I'll keep an eye out for it when I get back to the US.

Amy Ruttan said...

Honestly I have to admit that wouldn't be a book I picked up. I feel so much for characters that I don't know if I could feel their sadness, or put myself in their shoes ... but on the other hand you've caught my attention and I will have to give this book a chance.

Thanks for that! And Diet Pepsi, oh you traitor you!

Candy Minx said...

Yeah, I doubt from the back cover I would have read this book...but I can see how it would have caught me to read the opening paragraph. The opening paragraph already has me wanting more and hooked. Provocative. for the content..I just might have read the book if I thought about it for a sec. One time CBC had an amazing play about the original "siamese twins"and their lives...I thought I would turn off the radio...but somehow I got so hooked on the story and their relationships and lives. I had to listen to the whole thing.

So..I will likely track this novel down wonderful post!


Wow, just reading that paragraph I can't wait to read more!! It sounds beautiful. I just love books that pull my heartstrings! Thanks for the recommended read, Wylie. Goodluck with the WIP, too!! I'm fixing one of mine...will take me about a week but I'll be dropping by to say hi! =) I'm buying this book from amazon today.

Wylie Kinson said...

Kristy - thanks for stopping by. Yes, The Girls does seem to be a fave amongst book clubs!

Gabriella - True Crime? I wouldn't have the stomach for it! And you're correct that as writers, we should push ourselves out of our comfort zones. I don't think I do INTENTIONALLY, but am always happy to be surprised!

Amy - Diet Pepsi.

Wylie Kinson said...

Candy - they mentioned those 'original siamese twins' in the book, and the conjoined Iranian women who only recently died during their separation surgery. I can see why the story would intrigue if you heard it on the radio... Such a different existance to what we know. I highly recommend this book and think you'd enjoy (appreciate?) it.

Red - good luck with your wip!

abbey said...

Hola..from sunny Spain!
Just finished 'the girls'....
Some kind soul brought me out a box of mixed books she had scrounged from friends because we live in the rural outbacks here!...
it was the last of about 20 books and appealed to me the least...but with the sun shining and a cosy lounger calling my name!well what's a girl to do?! my copy has an awful pink cover that looks like a candy-shop chick flick kinda book(not my cup of tea...or glass of Cava at all!!!)
BUT...I was SO wrong, I was compleatly hooked, the last two days have passed in a blissful reading blurrrrrrr. The writer filled the characters with so much life it was hard to remenber it was fiction...the book is far from weird, its uplifting, gripping and VERY funny in parts...dont put it on any list...go out and buy it now! hope you enjoy it...Abbey.

Wylie Kinson said...

Abbey - thanks for visiting my blog and leaving your comments on 'the girls'. After reading over 60 books last year, I have to say, looking back... it was one of the best.
And you are so correct -- for anyone who's not read it, go buy it now!!

Adios ;)

abbey said...

Hola!...yea, thanks for that. Look forward to reading your comments on other good reads...that's about as many books as I get through too...which I always feel slightly guilty about!!! (having a business and family to attend to SOMETIMES when I surface from within the covers of my reading addiction!!!)My favorite reads this year would have to be 'kite runners' and 'we need to talk about Kevin'...both mind blowing.Take care...Abbey.